Leading with values, measuring success

Zac Whitsitt
Adviser, Integrated Quality Improvement Team, Department of Corrections

Valerie Shirley
Manager Integrated Quality Improvement Team, Department of Corrections

Author biographies:
Zac is currently completing a Master of Quality Systems from Massey University. He joined Corrections in a frontline role in early 2017. He is particularly interested in facilitating culture change and value implementation across the Corrections estate and improving efficiencies wherever possible.

Valerie has a Masters in Mental Health/Community Counselling with a specialty in Forensics and a Masters in Quality Management. She is also a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt. Valerie’s interest areas are organisational culture change through incremental improvements, values-led practice, review methodology and processes, and qualitative analysis.


Ara Poutama Aotearoa, the Department of Corrections, is accountable to the public and the government for the safe and humane care of people in prison and people subject to a community sentence. To ensure we meet our obligations under the law and conventions we are signatory to, as well as our obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi, the Department has developed the Ara Poutama Practice Framework to guide how we treat the people in our care, our colleagues, and, indeed, everyone with whom we work (Banaghan, 2018).

While the practice framework provides a solid foundation from which to work, how does the Department know if it is living the values? How do we measure values – is that type of measurement even possible?

As values are not able to necessarily be measured through standard quantitative analysis methodology (number of x, percentage of x) a new qualitative methodology has been developed by the Integrated Quality Improvement (IQI) team to assist sites to assess themselves against the values. This assessment, the Ara Poutama Site Assessment, provides powerful, meaningful feedback to sites to identify what’s working well and where opportunities for improvement exist.

This article follows on from a practice note by Nova Banaghan, General Manager Integrated Practice, in the previous edition of Practice (Banaghan, 2018) which introduced the Ara Poutama Practice Framework – the foundation of the Department’s shift towards values-led practice. This article discusses the importance of values-led practice, culture change and qualitative analysis and using workshops to bring those things “off the page” and into practice.

The importance of values-led practice

A quick survey or web search will show that most companies, from non-governmental organisations to large corporate organisations, have their values listed, often prominently (Alfred, 2013). It is not difficult to ascertain a particular company’s values; what is more difficult is to ensure these values are being lived and breathed within the workplace.

Mullen (2018) notes that a true values-led organisation “encourages and ensures ongoing internal dialogue about its core values and develops and applies systems to ensure the organisation is:

  • Explicit in collectively naming, defining, and communicating the values that motivate its purpose and work;
  • Coherent in giving expression to its core values in carrying out all its functions and bringing its values into all areas of its operations; and
  • Consistent in applying its values at all times and all contexts (p. 3).”

Values have been defined as “deeply held ideals regarding what we consider to be important”; they are often crucial motivators for individuals and organisations (Mullen, 2018 p. 5). A values-led organisation recognises this and uses its values as motivating mechanisms for individual practitioners and the organisation as a whole.

The Ara Poutama Practice Framework is a set of shared values which enables the Department and the people within it to operate from a values-led practice perspective. The hallmark of values-led practice is the use of values as “action guiding” mechanisms for decision-making, interactions among people, and treatment choices for the people in our care (Fulford, 2008). This “action guiding” feature of values makes them not only relevant to, but also inseparable from, ethical operational decision-making. If our values are used to underpin decisions, we will be able to function in a more person-centered, evidence-based way which will, arguably, assist the Department with fulfilling its core mission of keeping communities safe and changing lives. The Ara Poutama Practice Framework is made up of five values:

  • Manaaki: (Respect) We care for and respect everyone
  • Whānau: (Relationships) We develop supportive relationships
  • Wairua: (Spirituality) We are unified and focused in our efforts
  • Kaitiaki: (Guardianship) We are responsive and responsible
  • Rangatira: (Leadership) We demonstrate leadership and are accountable.

It is well-known that the Department uses evidence-based practice to guide programming, decision-making, policy, procedures, and rehabilitation and reintegration treatment possibilities. By aligning evidence-based practice with values-led practice, the Department can achieve the best possible treatment outcomes for people in our care. Values-led practice enables and encourages colleagues to interact with each other in entirely different, meaningful ways. For example, values-led practice encourages asking questions as opposed to simply giving orders.  The values can also be incorporated into business documents, processes and procedures. By making a commitment to implementing the values, the Department is demonstrating the three keys to becoming a values-led organisation – being explicit, coherent, and consistent.

Culture change and qualitative analysis

The Ara Poutama Practice Framework allows the Department to change and set our culture to be values-led. House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, & Gupta (2004) define culture as shared understandings manifested in societal values. The inclusion of Māori language and culture in the values underscores the importance the Department places on enabling staff to communicate and operate in ways that are culturally sensitive to the needs of the people in our care. The values themselves are universal in application; they are core values in almost every society which ensures that the Ara Poutama Practice Framework is holistic and designed to positively influence and impact all the people with whom the Department works.

Culture change itself is predicated on an organisation developing a set of values and aligning those values with strategy and processes (Folz, 2016). For culture change to be truly successful, it must be measured (Folz, 2016). But how is it possible to measure such things as culture change and values?

IQI tackled this question head on and developed the Question Matrix and the Levels. The Question Matrix is a qualitative analysis tool that uses the five values and the four domains of the System Analysis Framework – People, Tools and Resources, Policies and Practice Frameworks, and Environment. The Question Matrix enables facilitators to develop specific questions targeting specific topics such as culture change.

Focus groups are then run with the appropriate target audience, staff, people in our care, external stakeholders (sometimes, all three groups) to hear and prioritise the voice of the people. The questions and conversation prompts from the Question Matrix provide the talking points for each focus group.

These conversations provide rich qualitative data which is then themed and reported back under the five values and Systems Analysis Framework domains.

This themed conversational data is then used by site leaders to assess how the site is implementing each value by rating each value against the Levels (see Figure 1).

As the site moves through the rating process, it will become clear what’s working well and where opportunities for improvement exist. It is necessary and important for sites to rate themselves as opposed to being rated by an external party; the people who work at the site know the site best and are best-placed to rate the themed conversation data against the values. Self-rating also provides a sense of ownership and accountability. It is important to note that the ratings are only used for the site to assess itself on a continuum and are not to be viewed as tick boxes or targets.

Once sites have identified opportunities for improvement, they develop a plan which focuses on small, incremental improvements. By placing the focus on small, incremental steps, sites will not be overwhelmed by improvement; the changes made will also be more likely to fully embed, thereby progressing overall culture change at the site. For example, a site may choose to work on its relationship with people in care by greeting them with “kia ora” and calling them by their given name (if they prefer that).

The Ara Poutama Values Workshop

The Ara Poutama Values Workshop was developed by IQI to assist staff to better understand the methodology of the Question Matrix, the Levels, and the process of qualitative analysis to asses against the values. Input and collaboration was sought from the regions to develop the format and the materials used in the workshops; it’s crucial to have this input to gain buy-in from key stakeholders and future users of the assessment and its associated documentation.

The workshops are designed using the Model for Improvement, an internationally recognised improvement methodology, as a framework to structure the conversations and group activities. The Model for Improvement is comprised of the following questions:

  1. Where are we now (in relation to operationalising and implementing the values)?
  2. What are we trying to accomplish?
  3. How will we know that a change is an improvement?
  4. What change(s) can we make that will result in an improvement?

The workshops are collaborative; free and frank conversation within a safe environment is encouraged. Participants are seated at tables each facilitated by an IQI team member; participants are initially unaware that each of these tables comprises its own focus group.

Throughout the day, participants contribute to focus group discussions akin to the focus groups they will be running themselves when completing an assessment or review at their site. When this is revealed later in the day, participants usually express astonishment at how simple the process is to complete, facilitate, and participate in. They are also usually quite surprised by the amount of valuable data which has come from their conversations and how that data is easily able to be themed and sent back to them (in a follow up email sent by IQI within 72 hours after the workshop has taken place).

The interactive nature of the site assessment invites a level of participation not usually associated with a values framework. The workshops eliminate the tokenistic “poster on the wall” and create an interactive and engaging process which appears to be a first within New Zealand and, possibly, the world, particularly in the Corrections space. Workshops are currently being held regionally and at national office and are facilitated by the IQI team.

Next steps

IQI will continue offering the Ara Poutama Values Workshops for the foreseeable future within National Office and the regions. IQI is also offering active assistance to sites and regions to support the work and embed the process.

As each site completes the assessment process, information will be passed to the regional teams and then to IQI at National Office. This information will be used to assist the Department’s General Manager Cultural Capability with developing the Cultural Capability dashboard and to keep the Executive Leadership Team informed regarding the cultural change across the estate. It is anticipated that there will be positive learnings and knowledge shared across the country.  IQI, the regions, and the sites have just begun this process; as sites complete the assessment, information will become available about the assessment process itself that will be used to continuously improvement the Ara Poutama Site Assessment and the process.

The change to values-led practice is challenging but extremely rewarding. Values-led practice is the way forward and will play a critical role in driving positive change for staff and people in the care of the Department. By developing and embedding the Ara Poutama Practice Framework, the associated assessment, and using the Ara Poutama Values Workshop to do so, Corrections is pioneering values-led practice and will, ultimately, be a force for good within New Zealand and globally.


Alfred, R. (2013, December 11). Values-led businesses care about behaviours not buzz words. Retrieved February 19, 2019, from https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/values-led-business-behaviour-buzz-words

Banaghan, N. (2018). Practice note: Ara Poutama Practice Framework - our guide to integrated prison practice. Practice: The New Zealand Corrections Journal,6(2). Retrieved January 16, 2019, from https://www.corrections.govt.nz/resources/research_and_statistics/journal/volume_6_issue_2_november_2018/practice_note_ara_poutama_practice_framework_-_our_guide_to_integrated_prison_practice.html.

Folz, C. (2016, September 22). How To Change Your Organizational Culture. Retrieved February 19, 2019, from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/1016/pages/how-to-change-your-organizational-culture.aspx

Fulford K.W.M., (2008), Values-Based Practice: A New Partner To Evidence-Based Practice And A First For Psychiatry? [Editorial]. In: Medicine, Mental Health, Science, Religion, and Well-being (A.R. Singh and S.A. Singh eds.), MSM, 6, Jan - Dec 2008, p10-21.

House, R.J., Hanges, P.J., Javidan, M., Dorfman, P.W., & Gupta, V. (eds.). (2004). Culture, Leadership, and Organizations: Th e GLOBE Study of 62 Societies.

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Mullen, R. (2018). Values-Led Organisations: Realising the Potential of Values [PDF]. Dublin, Ireland: Values Lab.